Breastfeeding is an island of calmness in the chaotic world of raising a baby, and improves your health too!
Bringing a new life into the world is an experience unlike any other. The joy, happiness, and excitement are overwhelming and many mothers around the world describe it as ‘the best thing that has ever happened to me’. With it, come the daily struggles of raising a newborn, not the least of which is breastfeeding. Even though it’s the most natural thing in the world, it’s also an acquired skill, which oftentimes causes mothers anxiety and stress.
Additionally, many new mothers may struggle with their milk supply and may opt to stop breastfeeding early. However, as technology advances, solutions for breastfeeding problems multiply by the day. There are many benefits to exclusive breastfeeding, not only for the newborn but the mom as well!
How breastfeeding helps your little one’s development
Your breast milk is the most nutritious food your baby will ever have, made especially for them. It contains all of the necessary nutrients and micronutrients to sustain its rapid growth and development. Moreover, breastmilk contains antibodies, as well as lymphocytes, who provide protection and temporary immunity against infections and illnesses.
The colostrum (first milk) is especially important because it contains a much higher concentration of proteins and nutrients in a very low volume of liquid, which helps jumpstart the newborn’s digestive system.
More importantly, the breast is the first source of safety, comfort, and sustenance for the baby in this world. The warmth of your embrace helps the baby form healthy neural pathways, and form a secure attachment style in the future. A breastfeeding routine also helps the baby develop a predictable feeding pattern, which in turn reduces stress for both you and your baby and less frequent night wake-ups. You are the anchor from which your little one can safely explore the world, and while eliminating stress is impossible, the shared physical contact provides a harmonious environment for your little one to grow up in.
Breastfeeding improves your health too!
Even though they may not be very well known, you also benefit from this wonderful activity with your little bundle of joy. Exclusive breastfeeding improves postnatal weight loss through increasing insulin sensitivity, burning the visceral adipose tissue stored up during pregnancy. Importantly, this increased insulin sensitivity also reduces the risks of developing diabetes and an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight.
Large quantities of oxytocin are released, activating the let-down reflex which lets your breast milk flow freely. This hormone is the main emotional bonding agent between intimate partners, providing feelings satisfaction, closeness, and contentment. It forges and strengthens the strongest emotional bond between you and your little one.
Besides, it lowers your chances of developing autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as several types of cancer including ovarian and breast cancer.
What if you don’t produce enough milk?
Choosing to breastfeed is a brave and intensive activity, a skill which is acquired and perfected over time. It might take some time for you and your baby to get used to each other. And many mothers find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of inadequate milk supply (low volume), or breastfeeding anxiety (fear of pain of biting).
If you are having trouble with your milk supply, you may want to introduce galactagogic foods or breastfeeding supplements to help boost the volume and milk quality. Galactagogues contain nutrients which help your body increase your milk volume, adequate for your baby’s needs.
Breastfeeding anxiety is a common issue among new moms. Therefore, professionally trained lactation consultants (doulas) are a great resource to mobilize to help you overcome any breastfeeding fear. These troubles might look insurmountable at first, but with time and support, they are going to become nothing but a distant memory.
Breastfeeding can feel like an arduous task at times but it is the best gift you can give yourself and your little one. Its benefits far outweigh any fears or insecurities which may arise in this period and provides newborns with the best food (and thus, start) for a natural, healthy, happy, and carefree childhood. Mothers who choose to breastfeed exclusively report fewer health complications for themselves, as well as their newborns. Furthermore, there’s no bond stronger than that of a mother and child forged at in her loving embrace.